In this spectacular, colorful salad, roasted red peppers, lobster, and lettuce are beautifully set off by green beans and crispy golden potato chips. Alice Waters taught me how to make this vinaigrette at Chez Panisse many years ago. Her style is evident in many of the dishes I do, both consciously and subconsciously. If it weren’t for Alice, I think I would have been just another struggling, easily frustrated cook. Perhaps the most important thing I learned from her was not recipes, but a simple yet tough and uncompromising message: It is a professional basic that you must taste everything you buy and make. Whatever you serve must meet your standards, and only then is the food fit for public consumption. This notion may seem obvious, but it is the most difficult concept to get across to new cooks, possibly because we are such a visually oriented society, and food is no exception. If it looks good, they reason, it must be good. Alice always railed against such an idea: Taste is of ultimate importance. Bobby Flay puts it another way: “If you’re not chewing, you’re not cooking.”
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the lobsters and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until you see a white substance (collagen) at the widest part of the tail. Pull the lobsters out of the water and drain on a platter. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells and slice into bite-sized chunks. Refrigerate.Peel the potato and slice as thin as possible or use a mandoline. Place in a bowl, add 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, turning the slices carefully to coat. Spread the potatoes out on two baking sheets in a single layer and bake, turning once, until crispy and golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and drain on paper towels.Roast the peppers over medium-high heat on the stovetop or under a hot broiler, turning occasionally, until blackened and blistered all over. Place the peppers in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let them steam for 15 minutes.Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Top and tail the beans. Generously salt the boiling water, add the beans, and cook for 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Drain and spread them on paper towels to cool.Wash the lettuce and pat dry.Peel the peppers with your fingers (do not rinse) and stem and seed them. Slice them into 1/2-inch-wide strips; save any juices in the bowl for the vinaigrette.Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil and the balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Add any pepper juices and season with salt and pepper.In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with the basil. Add the beans and lobster and toss gently. Toss again with the vinaigrette, and arrange the salad on a platter. Decorate it with the potato chips and pepper strips and serve.